The NHL has announced its latest round of cancellations on Monday, the result of an ongoing labor dispute between owners and players.
Another two weeks were lopped off this time, as all games through Dec. 30 are now gone. Technically, that’s another seven games for the Sharks, although any schedule for a shortened season will have to be rewritten at this point anyway.
A total of 526 games, or more than 42 percent of the season, has now been cancelled.
Whether or not the two factions are close to agreeing on a deal depends which one you ask. After several days of meetings last week, union head Donald Fehr told a media contingent in New York on Thursday that be believed a deal was close. He repeated that over the weekend in a speech to the Canadian Auto Workers in Toronto.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, however, suggest otherwise. Bettman staged an angry press conference in New York after Fehr was done speaking, accusing the NHLPA boss of “spinning us all into an emotional frenzy” by suggesting an agreement may be near.
As for cancelling games through Dec. 30, Daly told the NJ Star Ledger that the league is trying to give empty buildings more flexibility, and that a “shorter horizon also would suggest we are closer than we are right now."
There appears to be two main obstacles to an agreement – the length of the next CBA, and contract term limits. The league proposed a 10-year CBA with five-year maximum contracts (seven for re-signing your own free agent). The union countered with an eight-year contract limit and eight-year CBA term.
After talks broke down on Thursday, the NHL removed its previous offer from the table, which included $300 million to the players to help honor existing contracts in what has come to be known as the “make-whole” provision.
Bettman also suggested that time is getting short to have a season that still has integrity. In 1995, a 48-game season began on Jan. 20 after an agreement was reached on Jan. 11. Using that example as a worst-case scenario, and there is another month left to strike a deal.
Daly and the NHLPA’s Steve Fehr reportedly spoke over the weekend, but no further meetings are scheduled. ESPN is reporting the two sides are expected to resume formal discussions at some point this week.